The survey took place alongside seven budget engagement ‘roadshows’ staged at venues across the Island. As a further stage of consultation, focus groups with stakeholders (community groups, agencies and businesses), took place in early December, to consider some of the findings and issues raised by the survey and roadshows.
Council staff have also been consulted with through a survey and focus groups.
The survey, roadshows and focus groups gave people the chance to have an input into shaping the council’s budget for 2014/2015 and future years. The council will set its budget and council tax for 2014/2015 at a Full Council meeting on 26th February.
Summaries of the survey findings and issues raised at the roadshows can be found on the iwight.com website,http://www.iwight.com/Council/OtherServices/Financial-Management/Budget-Consultation
Both in the introduction to the survey and at the roadshows the following financial challenges were highlighted:
- The council faces a budget gap of £28 million over the next three financial years, largely due to reduced government funding.
- A large amount of the council’s spending is in statutory areas (such as children’s services and adult services) where savings are not possible.
- The major part of the £28 million budget gap will have to be found from the council’s discretionary services, which currently cost the council £32 million a year.
- Discretionary services include such things as culture and heritage, lifeguards, parks and open spaces, Cowes chain ferry, leisure centres and public conveniences.
A total of 116 survey forms were completed and returned (mainly online). Findings included the following:
- 72 per cent felt the council should deliver its services differently to reduce costs.
- Services it was felt should be provided by someone else, included bereavement services, Cowes chain ferry, culture and heritage, harbours, parking services, the school music service, school transport, sports and play development, subsidised buses, workforce development and the youth service.
- 63.3 per cent were in favour of an increase in council tax; 27.8 per cent in favour of a two percent increase; 19 per cent in favour of a one per cent increase; 16.5 per cent in favour of an increase of more than two per cent (for which a referendum would be required).
- 53 per cent agreed that some services should be rationed so they are only provided to the people with greatest need.
- 59 per cent agreed there are different innovative ways of providing services at lower costs.
Council leader, Councillor Ian Stephens, said:
“The survey findings and roadshow contributions, together with the focus group discussions, will play an important part in planning the council’s budget for 2014/2015 and beyond – a period in which we face extreme financial challenges and some very difficult decisions.
“We are grateful to those people who contributed to the survey and attended the roadshows and focus groups – their input has been very helpful, and we have received some interesting and useful suggestions and observations.
“There will be further consultations as we continue to develop the budget and, as stated at our roadshows, we will be working closely with our partner organisations, especially the town and parish councils.”